It’s the MusicTech Buyer’s Guide where we round up some of the best products recently reviewed in the magazine. This time around, we have a selection of keyboard synthesisers that we’ve looked at over the last year…
Best: Future classic – DSI OB-6
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When it comes to synths, there are few better designers than Dave Smith, the man behind DSI and legendary synth pioneer. So how do you improve on one synth icon? Add another, that’s how. OB-6 is the result of a collaboration between Dave and Tom Oberheim – there’s a very good spoof video of how they knocked up its design in a bar on the back of a napkin. The reality is that they’ve designed a classic.
Andy Jones said: “I did nearly mark OB-6 down on the price, as it’s currently listing at around £300 more than the Prophet-6 in the UK – which is significant. However, after listening to it, I fell for its OB charms. At every turn, it inspires new riffs and complete tunes and, when all is said and done, you can’t ask for more than that from any instrument. The OB-6’s sound completely puts this synth into a league of its own.”
Best: Analogue mini – Korg minilogue
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Bang for buck, this is a great synth package. Korg seems to be on a mission to surprise and delight at every turn, and the minilogue was as unexpected as it is full of features. And this price for an analogue poly synth?
“I can’t quite believe how much we have on offer here,” said reviewer Dave Gale. “What I’ve so far described is the architecture of a pretty substantial synth, the specification of which would be up there with the best of them, yet Korg has managed this with such seeming simplicity, that it’s a joy to use and there is no head scratching involved from trying to work out how to do something. There is no doubt that this synth is a pretty wonderful product. It’s full of great analogue character and rock-solid in stability. The minilogue is something of a no-brainer. Eight top-quality VCOs for under £500? That makes this something of a bargain. Korg really has done a great job here – it’s a great machine.”
Best: Modulation – Arturia MatrixBrute
Price £1,659 (street)
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You can’t deny the achievements that Arturia has made in the world of synths. It’s gone from a software-only company to producing massive hardware synths in a very short space of time and the MatrixBrute is its ultimate achievement, thanks largely to its ‘Battleship’-style modulation feature.
Reviewer Dave Gale said: “This is a pretty outstanding bit of synth design. There’s an awful lot on offer here and, unlike its competitors, is has the draw of the matrix, which is very helpful indeed, especially when routing modulations. I do like the fact that it has a very quirky feel and sound, which is largely down to the Steiner filter and extensive oscillator section: and in an age when many synths are almost clone-like, you have to applaud Arturia for actually offering something different.” He concluded:“This is a powerful beast of a synth and comprehensive in just about all areas.”
Best: Value – Behringer DeepMind12
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Behringer has always produced products cheaper than most and with a three-year guarantee on this synth, the company is staking a claim for being cheap and reliable. DeepMind 12 was much anticipated by reviewer Dave Gale, who was wowed by the 12 notes of polyphony and sounds. “I got lost for a couple of hours… I found myself reverse-engineering patches to hear how things had been created. With the DM 12, Behringer has set the bar exceptionally high at an exceptionally low price-point. It nods to the classics, but offers so much more.”
Best: Small wonder – Teenage Engineering OP-1
OP-1 is no ordinary synth. It’s a drum machine, sampler, a sequencer, oh, and an FM radio, too. That’s because its makers, Teenage Engineering, don’t do things by the book: so while it is expensive for its size, think of it as the TARDIS of the synth world.
Reviewer Andy Jones said: “This is a great update to an already fantastic machine. Of course, mobile music making has moved on in leaps and bounds during OP-1’s life – the iPad has come of age, especially – but there’s a lot to be said for tactility and quirkiness. All in all, this is one unit that could easily make you stand out – what price individuality? A wonderful piece of music technology that might demand a lot of cash, but delivers spades of goodness in return.”
Best: Hybrid – Roland System-8
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System-8 is essentially a polyphonic version of Roland’s System-1, a synth that used software ‘Plug Outs’ to emulate classic Roland synths. With eight voices, you’re now entering Roland fantasy land, as Dave Gale enthused: “It’s really great to use and is a very powerful and well-equipped pro-level synthesiser. If you heard it on a track, you wouldn’t know it wasn’t a Jupe, but with all the additional features, it’s a powerful creation, just like the original was.
“This is a fantastic synth package that has much to offer on so many levels.”